Hours after the completion of Gameweek 28, the Scout Squad panel have been quickly assembled to champion some Fantasy assets for our regular Scout Picks feature.
The 72 nominations listed below will be whittled down to a squad of 14 (with the starting XI not exceeding a total cost of £83.5m) ahead of the Gameweek 29 deadline at 11:30 GMT on Saturday.
Az, Peter, Joe and Neale (in for the unavailable Paul) expand on their notable selections and omissions in the article below.
|GK||Mathew Ryan||Mathew Ryan||Mathew Ryan||Mathew Ryan|
|David de Gea|
|Lukasz Fabianski||Rui Patricio|
|Rui Patricio||Tom Heaton||Tom Heaton||Lukasz Fabianski|
|DF||Matt Doherty||David Luiz||Matt Doherty||David Luiz|
|David Luiz||Matt Doherty||Shane Duffy||Shane Duffy|
|Shane Duffy||Luke Shaw||Luke Shaw||Matt Doherty|
|Andrew Robertson||Shane Duffy||David Luiz||Luke Shaw|
|Issa Diop||Andrew Robertson||Ben Chilwell|
|MF||Raheem Sterling||Raheem Sterling||Raheem Sterling||Paul Pogba|
|Paul Pogba||Paul Pogba||Eden Hazard||Eden Hazard|
|Eden Hazard||Eden Hazard||Paul Pogba||Raheem Sterling|
|Sadio Mane||Sadio Mane||James Maddison||Sadio Mane|
|Harvey Barnes||James Maddison||Sadio Mane||Gerard Deulofeu|
|FW||Raul Jimenez||Sergio Aguero||Raul Jimenez||Harry Kane|
|Sergio Aguero||Raul Jimenez||Sergio Aguero||Sergio Aguero|
|Gonzalo Higuain||Romelu Lukaku||Jamie Vardy||Raul Jimenez|
|Marcus Rashford||Gonzalo Higuain||Gonzalo Higuain||Marcus Rashford|
|Ashley Barnes||Ashley Barnes||Harry Kane||Ashley Barnes|
Most popular picks: Mathew Ryan, Matt Doherty, David Luiz, Shane Duffy, Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane, Sergio Aguero, Raul Jimenez (four), Rui Patricio, Luke Shaw, Gonzalo Higuain, Ashley Barnes (three).
Mine is a squad low on originality, save for one or two curveballs.
The triple-up on Chelsea is less an endorsement of the Blues’ abilities and more of a reflection of just how shambolic Fulham are. It could be argued that even Huddersfield Town are in better shape (points aside) than the Cottagers, with Jan Siewert at least having a coherent plan no matter how doomed the West Yorkshire club appear to be.
Claudio Ranieri lurches from one formation to the next, however, changing system and personnel on a weekly basis (as well as during games) and now incurring the wrath of the Fulham support. That he chose to experiment with a diamond formation in the six-pointer against Southampton underscored the fact that he still, three-and-a-half months on, has no idea what his best starting XI is.
Fulham have conceded two or more goals in every league match in 2019, so Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and David Luiz – who could exploit the Cottagers’ aerial weakness – are fairly predictable nominees.
Shane Duffy has already been on the scoresheet against Huddersfield once this season and no FPL defender has recorded as many efforts in the box over the last six Gameweeks, so there could be returns at both ends for the Brighton stopper given that the Terriers have not scored a single goal in their last four away matches.
Issa Diop is another towering centre-back who doesn’t have anywhere near the same impressive level of underlying attacking statistics as Duffy but Newcastle’s continued vulnerability at set plays (they conceded a joint-high seven in Gameweek 28 despite their clean sheet) bodes well for the 6’4″ defender, who found the net in West Ham’s last home match against Fulham.
I’ve gone with Harvey Barnes over James Maddison in midfield, meanwhile: I thought the young left-winger was excellent against Brighton on Tuesday, even though he can’t finish for toffee. Watford have conceded a joint-high 28 chances from their right flank over the last six Gameweeks and Leicester may well be unshackled following the departure of the pragmatic Claude Puel and appointment of Brendan Rodgers.
These budget buys could come in handy as we try to crowbar Hazard, Sergio Aguero, a Champions League-free Paul Pogba and a rested Raheem Sterling into the Scout Picks on Friday.
Gameweek 29 looks an ideal opportunity to turn to the Premier League’s big guns.
Chelsea’s premium stars look particularly primed for returns when they visit a Championship-bound Fulham side which has taken the term ‘whipping boys’ to levels of sadomasochism that would make even the Marquis of Sade blush.
With a record number of shots conceded and a mere two clean sheets this season, the Cottagers look set for another pummelling. Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and attack-minded centre-back David Luiz are the three Blues assets most likely to prosper. Their midweek victory over Spurs will give Maurizio Sarri’s side added confidence.
A trip to Bournemouth looks good for Manchester City’s pricey options. Including both Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero may be too much for our budget but I’d like to see at least one included against a Cherries outfit that has the third-worst record for conceding goal attempts at home this campaign. Sterling may well be the best option given his benching against West Ham in midweek.
Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Andrew Robertson also deserve inclusion, against Everton, who have the league’s worst home defence in recent weeks. Over the last six home matches, no side has conceded more shots or close-range efforts than Marco Silva’s troops. Mane should get the nod over Mohamed Salah, given the Senegalese midfielder has scored six in as many league games, compared to three for the more expensive Egyptian over the same period.
After a midweek brace against Crystal Palace, Romelu Lukaku looks in fine form ahead of Southampton’s visit to Old Trafford. With Marcus Rashford still not fully fit, I think the Belgian will earn another start.
To afford such an array of expensive assets, savings will need to be made via budget options with strong promise.
James Maddison may only have five assists this season but with an impressive 21 chances created over his last four matches, more are likely to come for the £6.6m-priced Leicester midfielder. His side travel to Watford also buoyed by the managerial appointment of Brendan Rodgers, who while in charge of Liverpool produced one of the most attacking sides the Premier League has seen in recent years. The Hornets’ 5-0 drubbing at Anfield midweek shows how frail the Hertfordshire side can be in defence.
Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, with 16 shots and two goals in his last four home matches, is another value pick I’d like to see make the cut for Crystal Palace’s visit to Turf Moor.
So too, Brighton’s Shane Duffy or Mathew Ryan, who look set to earn a rare clean sheet when Huddersfield drop by. On the road this season the Terriers have mustered a league-low eight goals.
It always feels like a bit of a treat when we have a long break and are then presented with three Gameweeks in quick succession and us FPL managers need to make sure we are keeping our fingers on the pulse when making the most of a good run of fixtures for certain sides (e.g. Leicester), form players (e.g. Aguero) and high-performing teams (e.g. Newcastle).
It feels like there are plenty of options out there at the moment, so maximising our points leading up to the final stretch of the season looks vital to achieving the ranks we want.
There are some good fixtures this week, which are reflected in my picks. Defence looks an excellent source of points, with attacking defenders having appealing fixtures which may create the perfect storm.
Matt Doherty versus Cardiff looks great, as does top-goalscoring defender Shane Duffy at home to Huddersfield. Luke Shaw finally registered some attacking returns against Crystal Palace after a great solo run, while David Luiz I imagine is a shoo-in for the Scout Squad due to his love of a free-kick and a direct pass. Rounding off my defenders is Ben Chilwell, who I prefer to the popular Ricardo Pereira due to what I believe to be better assist and bonus potential.
My midfield doesn’t offer up too many surprises, with only the omission of Mohamed Salah likely to raise some eyebrows – but with Sadio Mane in better form and costing four million less, it’s hard to justify the Egyptian’s inclusion.
Owners of Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba and Eden Hazard will have a difficult decision to make with regards to the captaincy. The fact that Sterling was benched against West Ham tells me he’s very likely to start against Bournemouth, who have looked woeful in defence recently.
James Maddison will be looking to kick on from a decent, but not amazing, debut season: he’s creating the chances but can someone put them away? If Brendan Rodgers can have the impact that some people are expecting, it’s highly likely Maddison will become an option like he was at the start of the season.
Up front, I love the look of Raul Jimenez against Cardiff. The fixtures turn for Wolves after this one, so hoping he can deliver after a disappointing defeat against Huddersfield.
Sergio Aguero is in scintillating form and can’t be ignored, even if there are some concerns over his game-time after playing a lot of minutes over the last week. Gabriel Jesus and his injury may help his cause though.
Jamie Vardy and Gonzalo Higuain was a bit of a toss-up for the third spot, I like both this week for different reasons. Vardy’s pace seems set to be utilised by Rodgers as he looks to be the main man in the mini-revival but Higuain has Fulham and proved against Huddersfield a few weeks ago that he can score goals in the Premiership.
Finally, I’ve gone for “differential” Harry Kane, who loves a goal in a London derby – in fact, he is the record goalscorer in these types of matches (eight).
Most managers will by now be building towards the blanks but as medium-term targets will vary according to your chip strategy and as the Scout Squad is a one-week snapshot anyway, my selections are mainly myopic.
The fates have decreed that five of the bluntest strike forces each come up against opponents who have at least one defender who can cause problems in the other box and I’ve put some meat on the bone for my defensive selections this week.
Top of my list is David Luiz, who has created three big chances and taken on two big chances himself over the last six matches and who faces a Fulham side which has failed to find the net in half of their last six games.
Another defender with two big chances to his name recently is Matt Doherty, albeit that he hasn’t actually found the net in the league in 2019. Cardiff, though, have shipped goals (14 in fact) for fun in their last six and I’m keeping faith with the Irishman and indeed his Mexican teammate, Raul Jimenez.
Doherty is joined by his Republic of Ireland team-mate, Shane Duffy, who has hit the target four times in his last six matches from 12 attempts. Duffy faces the worst attack in recent weeks with the Terriers recording just two goals in six matches, despite a fine result against Wolves last time out.
My final two defensive picks are included for their assist potential, with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s triple haul against Watford reflective of his 12 key passes and two big chances created over the last six matches and Luke Shaw not far behind with ten key passes including two big chances (an argument could also be made for Ashley Young on the other flank). Liverpool take on an Everton side with six goals in as many games but half of those came when they clipped the Bluebirds’ wings. United host Southampton having been breached just once in the last four games.
Most of my midfield and attacking selections – including a double-up each of the Manchester clubs – hopefully, speak for themselves. I’ve gone for Sadio Mane over Mohamed Salah purely to save funds, rather than because of an animated patella – the underlying statistics are tight and personally, I wouldn’t advocate downgrading the Egyptian unless you too need some spare cash.
The Community Champion
The Community Champion who has the best lead over the Scouts during 2018/19 will win a £100 Amazon voucher (currently we can only offer Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com vouchers).
Last weekend, Pirlo’s Pen narrowly lost to our Scout Picks 44-45 with a 3-4-3 formation of: Dubravka (6); Lascelles (6), Schär (6), Maguire (0), Kolasinac (8); Son (2), F Anderson (2), Eriksen (2); Aubameyang (1), Lacazette (7), Arnautovic (4).
fclackless’s Gameweek 10 victory over the Scout Squad crew by a score of 77-44 remains the deficit to beat.
The Community Champion will take a back seat this week and return in Gameweek 30.